Erup­tion

Gray belts grand slam dur­ing eight-run fourth as La Plata downs Hunt­ing­town

Maryland Independent - - Sports - ANDY STATES as­tates@somd­news.com

When Pey­ton Gray stepped into the bat­ter’s box in the bot­tom of the fourth in­ning on Thurs­day af­ter­noon, he had no plans to swing the bat un­less he saw ex­actly what he wanted.

The La Plata sopho­more got what he wanted.

With one swing of the bat, Gray smashed a grand slam over the right-field fence to ef­fec­tively put away the vis­it­ing Hunt­ing­town Hur­ri­canes. The four runs in­creased La Plata’s lead to 9-1 in what ul­ti­mately ended an 11-1, six-in­ning South­ern Mary­land Ath­letic Con­fer­ence non­di­vi­sion vic­tory for the War­riors.

“Brett [Pilk­er­ton] was up at bat and they threw four straight balls to him,” Gray said, ref­er­enc­ing the pre­vi­ous at-bat be­fore his homer, which was the first of his high school ca­reer. “I was look­ing for one pitch, and if I got that one pitch, I was go- ing to tag it. I was lucky enough that they threw it and I just turned on it and was lucky enough to get some air un­der­neath of it and it went over ... noth­ing bet­ter. It felt great.”

La Plata (5-1 over­all af­ter a 19-9 loss to Leonard­town on Mon­day) and Hunt­ing­town (5-2 af­ter a 4-1 win over North Point on Mon­day) were tied 1-1 with two outs in

the bot­tom of the fourth be­fore the hosts’ bats caught fire.

With run­ners on first and sec­ond, Scott Logue sin­gled to left to drive home Gray, who had walked to lead off the in­ning, with the goa­head run. It was only the be­gin­ning.

Zach Fitzsimmons fol­lowed with a two-run dou­ble, which was fol­lowed by Quinn Krahling’s RBI sin­gle. Nick Steury then sin­gled and Pilk­er­ton walked to set the stage for Gray’s big fly.

“We had re­ally good at­bats that in­ning,” La Plata head coach John Childers said. “The home run was by a sopho­more. It was pretty cool to watch that. We got the big hits with men on base and [Hunt­ing­town] didn’t. If they had got­ten the big hits early in the game when they loaded the bases a cou­ple times, it might have been a com­pletely dif­fer­ent game. So we were a lit­tle lucky and a lit­tle good today.”

In­deed, Hunt­ing­town had its op­por­tu­ni­ties early in the game. The Hur­ri­canes had the bases loaded with one out in the sec­ond but failed to push a sin­gle run across. An in­ning later, Danny Goucher drew a one-out walk which turned into a run on Tyler Liv­ingston’s RBI dou­ble the sub­se­quent at-bat.

The Hur­ri­canes went on to strand a run­ner at third, un­able to cap­i­tal­ize fur­ther. In the top of the fourth, they left run­ners on sec­ond and third, again fail­ing on the op­por­tu­nity to jump ahead of the hosts. By the fifth, it no longer mat­tered.

Hunt­ing­town left nine on base in the game, six of which were left in scor­ing po­si­tion. The show­ing was sim­i­lar to the Hur­ri­canes’ 2-1, nine-in­ning loss to McDonough on March 29 when the team left eight on base with, again, six left in scor­ing po­si­tion.

“Our pitch­ers need to do a bet­ter job and get guys out,” Hunt­ing­town head coach Guy Smith said. “We had the same sit­u­a­tions, had the bases loaded and couldn’t get any­thing done. They did, had eight straight hits. We just have to be bet­ter.”

The Hur­ri­canes are sched­uled to play St. Charles at Re­gency Fur­ni­ture Sta­dium in Wal­dorf at 4:30 p.m. today. Af­ter a dis­ap­point­ing week in which the Hur­ri­canes’ sand­wiched losses around a win over Lackey, Smith is look­ing for sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment from his squad.

“It needs to get tougher,” he said. “They need to get a lit­tle more com­pet­i­tive. We’re look­ing for nine guys to get bet­ter. We have some young guys we’re go­ing to get try­ing and dif­fer­ent guys will get op­por­tu­ni­ties. We’ll find out if we can re­bound next week af­ter this. Get­ting run-ruled is never fun.”

La Plata had taken the early 1-0 lead on Tyler Stock­well’s solo homer in the sec­ond in­ning. Start­ing pitcher Jake Hanks al­lowed just two hits but walked five to af­ford Hunt­ing­town its scor­ing chances early in the game. But La Plata’s de­fense was rel­a­tively solid and Hanks was able to pitch out of the jams he found him­self in.

“We started off a lit­tle shaky,” Hanks said. “We started a lit­tle up­ris­ing in the mid­dle in­nings. We started to pick up the pace and hit the ball, started to get some ral­lies go­ing. The team backed me up, saved me runs and kept me go­ing through the game.”

While he thinks there is plenty of room left to im­prove, Childers was rel­a­tively pleased with what his team has shown through five games. The War­riors took a 6-5 de­ci­sion from North­ern the day prior to the win over Hunt­ing­town, and had shown con­sid­er­able re­solve in do­ing so. La Plata has a home show­down with Charles County ri­val North Point at 4:30 p.m. today.

“We’re get­ting bet­ter. You can see our base­ball IQ and our youth on the bases. We’re mak­ing a lot of mis­takes still, but we have have some tal­ented kids, and they fight,” Childers said. “We had a re­ally ugly in­ning and gave them that run. They didn’t quit. They came right back. We did pretty much the same thing at North­ern yes­ter­day. If you have kids that fight through ev­ery at-bat through the en­tire game, you’re go­ing to have a chance to win.”

STAFF PHOTO BY ANDY STATES

La Plata’s Pey­ton Gray is con­grat­u­lated by team­mates af­ter hit­ting his first high school home run, a grand slam, in the bot­tom of the fourth in­ning in the War­riors’ game with the vis­it­ing Hunt­ing­town Hur­ri­canes on Thurs­day af­ter­noon. La Plata won 11-1 in six in­nings.

La Plata’s Tyler Stock­well is greeted by team­mates af­ter his solo homer in the sec­ond in­ning of the War­riors’ 11-1 win over the vis­it­ing Hunt­ing­town Hur­ri­canes on Thurs­day af­ter­noon.

STAFF PHOTOS BY ANDY STATES

La Plata’s Jake Hanks pitched five in­nings, al­low­ing just one run in the War­riors’ 11-1 win over the vis­it­ing Hunt­ing­town Hur­ri­canes on Thurs­day af­ter­noon.

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